AMD Radeon RX Vega review: Vega 56, Vega 64, and liquid-cooled Vega 64 tested

Find out whether RX Vega was worth the wait.

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RX Vega Radeon Pack bundles

Before we dive into performance testing, it’s worth noting the unconventional way Radeon RX Vega is being sold. Sure, you can buy standalone versions of the air-cooled Radeon RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 at their respective $399 and $499 price points, but AMD’s also selling the graphics cards at a $100 markup with “Radeon Packs” that offer bundled games and another $300 in discounts on Ryzen and FreeSync hardware. The liquid-cooled RX Vega 64 is only available as part of the $699 Radeon Aqua Pack. You can’t buy it standalone.

radeon rx vega packs AMD

It sounds simple enough, but the situation’s actually somewhat complex. (You don’t actually have to buy the extra hardware if you pick up a Radeon Pack edition of a Vega card, for example.) Head over to PCWorld’s RX Vega Radeon Pack explainer for a full breakdown. One crucial tidbit: It remains to be seen how much Vega stock gets allocated to standalone versions and how much gets set aside for Radeon Packs. Here’s what AMD says about the situation:

“We can’t break out volumes, but we’re working to ensure ample quantities of both standalone cards and the Radeon Packs so that gamers can get exactly what they’re looking for.”

Update: Very, very few standalone cards seemed to be available for Vega 64's launch, with the vast majority of stock allocated for Radeon Packs. Standalone cards disappeared quickly and pricing for all models leaped up by $100 or more at retail mere hours after release. Radeon RX Vega 56 cards disappeared instantaneously on August 28 as well.

Enough talk. Let’s benchmark!

Our test system

We tested the Radeon RX Vega 64 on PCWorld’s dedicated graphics card benchmark system. Our testbed’s loaded with high-end components to avoid bottlenecks in other parts of the system and show unfettered graphics performance. Some secondary details differ from prior reviews, however, as we’re in the process of upgrading to a more modern testing system. The case, power supply, and SSD model have changed, but the core aspects remain the same as before, and we retested all of the cards

  • Intel’s Core i7-5960X with a Corsair Hydro Series H100i closed-loop water cooler ($110 on Amazon)
  • An Asus X99 Deluxe motherboard
  • 16GB of Corsair’s Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory ($148 on Amazon)
  • EVGA Supernova 1000 G3 power supply ($200 on Amazon)
  • A 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD ($175 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal Series 570X case, deemed Full Nerd’s favorite case of 2016 ($180 on Amazon)
  • Windows 10 Pro ($180 on Amazon)

I’d hoped to perform more extensive testing on Radeon Vega, going so far as to prepare a Ryzen 1800X system ahead of time to provide benchmarks on both AMD- and Intel-based systems. I’d also hoped to test the cards’ hash rates for mining. Unfortunately, some hardware failures in our main test rig and an extremely tight testing window (AMD shipped the Vega cards to us painfully close to the deadline) prevented me from doing more than standard games testing. A version of Wattman that enabled Vega overclocking arrived over the weekend, so I wasn’t able to dabble in that, either.

The limited testing time and hardware failures also affected our lineup of tested graphics cards. We’re reviewing the $399 Radeon RX Vega 56, $499 air-cooled RX Vega 64, and $699 liquid-cooled RX Vega 64, of course. All were benchmarked using the Balanced power profile on the stock BIOS. We weren’t able to retest the Fury X, Vega’s HBM-packing predecessor. The card was a bit slower than the GTX 1070 when Nvidia’s card launched in May 2016.

dsc02076 Brad Chacos/IDG

We also retested the cards’ natural competitors, the (theoretically) $350 Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 and $500 GTX 1080. We’re also including the reference $700 GTX 1080 Ti, with performance results from April drivers. Our Founders Edition card suffered an early death shortly thereafter, so we weren’t able to retest it with Nvidia’s latest drivers but wanted to include the numbers as a reference point.

Because we’ve added a couple of new games to our suite for this review, we’re also including results from the $735 PNY GTX 1080 Ti XLR8, a GTX 1080 Ti variant with a custom cooler, a slight overclock, and a very modest markup over the reference version. We try not to mix reference and custom models in reviews, but it felt warranted in this case—especially considering the liquid-cooled Vega 64’s price tag.

Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the mentioned graphics presets, after disabling VSync, frame rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync. Given the capabilities of these cards, we tested the Vega 64, GTX 1080, and GTX 1080 Ti at 1440p and 4K resolution. The Vega 56 and GTX 1070 were tested at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K. They’re versatile!

Next page: The Division benchmarks

At a Glance
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